A Brief History of Courtship and Dating in America
A Brief History of Courtship and Dating in America, Part 1 [pic]by The Rev’d Skip Burzumato [pic] Whenever possible, I love to use the word “courtship” in everyday conversation with young and old alike. It’s one of those words with which most people are familiar, but have vastly differing opinions of what it means. For many, courtship is an old-fashioned word. It summons visions of men wooing women with small tokens of affection and asking their hand in marriage on bended knee. For social scientists, studies of courtship usually look at the process of “mate selection. (Social scientists, among whom I number myself from time to time, will never be accused of being romantics. ) For the purpose of this article the preparation for and proposal of marriage is what makes the act qualify as courtship.
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As cultural historians Alan Carlson and Beth Bailey put it in the Mars Hill Audio Report, Wandering Toward the Altar: The Decline of American Courtship, prior to the early 20th century, courtship involved one man and one woman spending intentional time together in order to get to know each other with the expressed purpose of evaluating the other as a potential husband or wife.
The man and the woman usually were members of the same community, and the courting usually was done in the woman’s home in the presence (and under the watchful eye) of her family, most often Mom and brothers. However, between the late 1800s and the first few decades of the 1900s the new system of “dating” added new stages to courtship. One of the most obvious changes was that it multiplied the number of partners (from serious to casual) an individual was likely to have before marriage.
So, one important point to understand right up front (and about which many inside and outside the church are confused) is that we have not moved from a courtship system to a dating system, but instead, we have added a dating system into our courtship system. Since most young adults will marry, the process employed in finding a husband and wife is still considered courtship. However, an extra layer, what we call “dating,” has been added to the process of courting. If you are familiar with computer programming terminology, you can liken dating to a sub-routine that has been added to the system of courtship.
Over the course of this two-part article, I would like to trace how this change occurred, especially concentrating on the origin of this dating “subroutine. ” Let me begin by briefly suggesting four cultural forces that assisted in moving mate selection from, as Alan Carlson puts it, the more predictable cultural script that existed for several centuries, to the multi-layered system and (I think most would agree) the more ambiguous courtship system that includes “the date. The first, and probably most important change we find in courtship practices in the West occurred in the early 20th century when courtship moved from public acts conducted in private spaces (for instance, the family porch or parlor) to private or individual acts conducted in public spaces, located primarily in the entertainment world, as Beth Bailey argues in her book, From Front Porch to Back Seat: Courtship in Twentieth Century America.
Bailey observes that by the 1930s and 40s, with the advent of the “date” (which we will look at more fully in the next installment) courtship increasingly took place in public spaces such as movie theaters and dance halls, removed by distance and by anonymity from the sheltering and controlling contexts of the home and local community. Keeping company in the family parlor was replaced by dining and dancing, movies, and “parking. ” A second cultural force that influenced the older courtship system was the rise of “public advice” literature as well as the rise of an “expert” class of advisers — psychologists, sociologists, statisticians, etc.
At the same time that the public entertainment culture was on the rise in the early 20th century, a proliferation of magazine articles and books began offering advice about courtship, marriage, and the relationship between the sexes. As Ken Myers says in Wandering Toward the Altar, from the late 1930s on, young people knew, down to the percentage point, what their peers throughout the country thought and did. They knew what was “normal. ” Prior to the 20th century, “normal” was determined within families and local communities, but now a “higher authority,” with wide-spread circulation and readership, began to form a national consciousness.
Thirdly, we see a change in sexual norms in the West. With the onset of the sexual revolution the question arose, “Why would a man court and woo a woman when he could gain a chief benefit of marriage, namely sexual gratification, for free with no commitment? ” (Friendship “with benefits” is a contemporary example. ) Closely related to this is the invention of birth control. There is too much that could be said here, so I’ll be brief. Simply put, with the onset of the idespread use of chemical and other means of birth control, the language of procreation — of having children — was separated from the language of marriage. As U. of Chicago ethicist Leon Kass argues in his chapter on courtship in Building a Healthy Culture: Strategies for an American Renaissance, under the old system of courtship, marriage and bringing a child into the world were inextricably linked. But no longer. With the ever decreasing risk of pregnancy, having sex and being married were no longer tied together. Fourthly, we find a change in the models and metaphors used to describe the home and family.
Prior to the 20th century, when we talked about courtship we used language and metaphors of home and family: “He’d be a good father,” “They could have such a happy home together,” etc. The new system of courtship that played itself out in the entertainment culture and public square largely was understood and described by the advice and “expert” class with metaphors taken from modern industrial capitalism. It’s as if those who wrote and commented on male-female relationship had stopped reading the Song of Solomon and Jane Austen in favor of Adam Smith, Karl Marx, and John Maynard Keynes.
The new courtship system gave importance to competition (and worried about how to control it); it valued consumption; it presented an economic model of scarcity and abundance of men and women as a guide to personal affairs — There aren’t that many good men left, so you better get one while the gettin’ is good! This new language of courtship had great symbolic importance and continues to shape the way we think, speak and act concerning relationships to this day. Have you ever known a girl who went out with a guy who was a complete dolt but who could help her get ahead socially? (And not to pick on women, it just as easily happens in reverse. Those decisions are based more on economic theory of the 19th and 20th centuries than on any sort of biblical notion of desire for the opposite sex. So, these are four important cultural forces in the early part of the 20th century that assisted in moving our culture from the older courtship system that existed prior to the late 19th century, to a courtship system that includes “dating,” which, I will argue in the next article, is much more ambiguous and confusing. I will also talk about dating itself (including the origination of the word “date”), and how it has changed over time. ttp://www. boundless. org/2005/articles/a0001456. cfm Filipino Custom and Tradition: Courtship Although they have dated for a while here in the United States, my brother in law has to continue to court not only his fiancee but her family as well. Courtship is one that is still being practiced among the strictest of the Filipino families. This is performed by the male (who is the suitor since it is wrong to do it the opposite way) visiting the home of the female. In the olden days, courtship doesn’t start until the male suitor had obtained permission from the parents.
This was done with the male suitor being accompanied by another respectable elder and approaching either the father or the mother of the female and obtaining permissions days in advanced to visit at a particular day and time. Nowadays this form of getting the parent’s permission is still being practiced in the provinces, however, due to western influences, there are some variations more adaptable to the modern times. One alternative is to make a phone call, asking for the parents’ or guardian’s permission through an elder to schedule a visit.
Another way is for the suitor to approach the parents in a public place, and informally asking for permission to visit. Either way, it is to show proper respect to ask for permission prior to the formal visit. Properly greeting the parents by placing the back of the right hand of the parents to the suitor’s forehead is practiced to show respect. This is called pagmamano in Tagalog. When the permission has been granted, the suitor whether accompanied by a friend or an elder will visit the girl’s home and offers gifts.
Gift bags or boxes of goodies or Filipino snacks purchased from a local store and flowers are generally given. The snacks or other goods are offered to the family of the girl then the flowers and special sweets (like chocolate or candies) are given to the girl. In a strict Filipino home, during courtship, the parents are present during the first visit. This is the opportunity to get to know each other. This is sometimes called courting the parents first and winning their hearts and approval then letting the boy or suitor court the girl. Subsequent visits are then scheduled if all went well during the first visit nd, depending on how long the courtship will last, the answer is given by the girl with the parents’ knowledge as well. Since my brother in law and his fiancee have already dated and gone through a bit of courtship here in the United States, what he would do in his visit is to court or meet her family. He brought some pasalubong (gifts) from America which he will give to each family member. Other culture may call this as dowry but in the Filipino culture it is just plain gift-giving. No suitor should go to a girl’s home without bearing gifts at least during the first visit.
Then he will be introduced formally to her mother since her dad had passed away and also meet her younger siblings. His fiancee and her family would prepare a special meal and he will partake in them whole-heartedly. http://www. associatedcontent. com/article/397501/filipino_customs_and_traditions_courtship. html The Filipino way of courtship is probably among the most romantic in the world. TRADITION Courting under Filipino tradition gives very big importance on the value of respecting the woman and her family and strictly adhering with proper rules set by society for pursuing a lady.
This practice which dates back to the Spanish times prohibits men to be very aggressive or becoming even when they want the lady very much. One cannot just talk and approach a lady in the street and ask her number or address. If a young man sees a lady he likes he should seek out the help of a go-between, usually a common friend of both family, to ask the permission of the girls father whether he can visit them in their house. This is the gentlemanly thing to do so the parents will most likely approve unless of course the lady is just a child.
When the approval is obtained, the suitor can then come to the house with the go-between who will initiate the introductions to the family. The parents in turn will introduce their daughter to the gentleman. In this stage, the suitor is expected to bring “pasalubong” or gifts to the family and a special one to the girl he likes. This he will have to do everytime he visits the girl’s house. In the Philippines, when you court a lady, you have to court her whole family as well. In this first visit, the couple will not be left alone on their own to get to know each other.
It will just be an informal chatting and introduction and getting-to-know stage between the suitor and the family and making clear of the suitor’s intention to pursue the host’s daughter. After the initial visit, the suitor is then expected to woo the girl by showing up in her house more often and establish rapport with the her family. This is the stage where he does the “paninilbihan” or servitude. He serves the girls family in any way that he can to show to them and to the girl of his sincere intentions and love for her, be it by chopping firewood, fetching water from the well, etc.
It is a way of saying “I will do anything to prove my love for you”. At night, he will sing “harana” or love songs outside the girls house by the window with a guitar and his friends serving as back ups. They will sing and wait until the lady finally opens the window and invites them into the house. They will then be served with light snacks and they can talk in the presence of the girls parents and the man’s friends. Note that in most times, the couple will be with either friends or families. It is considered inappropriate to leave an unmarried couple unsupervised in those times no matter what their ages are.
The process of courting a Filipina in the traditional sense is a long and arduous process. It is expected that a Filipina will play hard-to-get when court because that is the norm. No matter how much she likes the man, she has to show utmost restraint and disinterest. Girls are made to believe that men will value them more if they are made to work hard before letting them have what they want. So after a long period of paninilbihan and a series of haranas, the girl can finally accept the suitor’s love. At this stage, the couple can now start dating in public but always in the company of a chaperon.
The man will still continue to come to the house and help out. When the time comes when he feels he is ready to get married, he and his parent’s will have to come to the girl’s house and the parents of the boy will have to formally ask the hand of the hand of the girl in marriage to their son. This stage is called “Pamamanhikan” or “Paghingi ng Kamay”. In doing this, they will have to bring with them, lots of food and presents as well as the dowry that they can present to the girls parents. In the Philippines, dowry is given by the boy’s family, not by the girl’s family.
This is because we give high value to the women in our society and giving them away is not easy. When the two families have come to an agreement as to the dowry, the wedding date is set, a ring is presented to the girl and the couple is said to be betrothed. A small feast is then held with the food brought by the boy’s family. MODERN Although a lot of our traditional wedding practice is still being observed these days there are modifications and “evolutions” that has been introduced to it that gives it a more modern version. Modern Filipino courtship revolves more on the liberalism of Filipino youth.
If Filipinos of opposite sex were not allowed to mingle in public in the old days, these days that is already possible. These has allowed courtship to be a little more lenient on youngsters. You can now meet a girl you like through a common friend or on a party but never on a street as the same is still regarded as inappropriate. Most parents would still want their children to be courted inside the house though some modern and liberal-minded Filipinas don’t do this anymore and prefers to meet up somewhere else instead, a clear disregard of tradition and parental respect.
Modern courtship does not really have a pattern. It could start from a group date where friends would pair friends up and tease them. Friends could play cupid and set a couple up and leave them on their own to talk then before you know it they are going out on a date. With the influence of western television, modern courtship these days are going fast although it doesn’t necessarily have the emotional baggage attached with immediately going to bed. It would take a lot longer time for Filipinos to trust each other to get to that point. It stems on the virtues rooted from the olden days.
Modern Filipina ladies are also decisive on their choices. Those who do not really want their suitors would not hesitate on letting them know of this fact. A refused suitor is called “basted”. These modern Filipinas are only a tip of the iceberg as most Filipinas especially the ones in the province still adheres to the traditional way of courtship. Most families still observes the rituals connected to panliligaw, pamamanhikan or paghingi ng kamay, dowry etc. Gone were the days of paninilbihan and haranas. These days, it is enough that a man shows up in a lady’s house and bonds with the woman’s family.
He is not expected to chop wood or fetch water but at least show the girl’s family that he is worthy enough of her love. It is important though to note whether it be traditional or modern, to show your sincere intention of courting by introducing yourself to the family and impressing the girls family in any way that you can. ONLINE We know how hard it is to try and court a Filipina online, believe use, we’ve been there. Here are some helpful tips to go through with it: 1. Try to be as gentleman as possible. A Filipino male sets his best foot forward in courting a girl. That’s how the game is played. 2. Keep communication lines open.
Filipinas love to talk on email, on skype, etc. They just want to feel and hear you love them all the time. This is their way of bridging the distance. Filipinas have a lot of insecurities, if you forget to call them they will immediately feel bad or suspicious you’re up to something. That’s true to most Pinays. Constant communication helps. 3. Filipinas love surprises 4. Make good all of your promises. When you say you are coming on a certain date make sure you come on that date. Sincerity to Filipinos is measured not by saying what is right but by doing what is right. http://www. western-asian. com/index. php/archives/30